Knee Bursitis

Knee Bursitis

Knee bursitis is an inflammation of the bursa. It normally occurs over the kneecap or on the inner side of the knee, just below the joint.

The bursae are small lubrication pads that help lubricate structures around the knee joint. There are three main bursa around the knee:

  • The prepatellar bursa (in front of the patella)
  • The pes anserine bursa (on the inner side of the knee, just below the joint)
  • The infrapatellar bursa (below the patella).

Active people who kneel often, or spend a lot of time working on hard surfaces, are more susceptible to suffering from knee bursitis. The inflammation is typically caused by friction or irritation to the affected bursa.

Symptoms of Knee Bursitis

Symptoms can vary depending on which bursa is affected and what causes the inflammation. Symptoms may include:

Localised swelling

An inflamed prepatellar bursa can swell up with fluid. It can increase in size, making it visible to the eye and spongy to touch.

Limited Motion

Knee bursitis is not likely to stop you from walking, but the swelling may restrict the joint’s movement.

Warm Feeling

Along with the swelling, the skin may feel warm to the touch and become red from the inflammation.


Knee bursitis is not often extremely painful, but some patients might feel a bit of tenderness around the knee.

Feeling Ill

If you have an inflamed bursa and you develop a fever or feel sick, you need to visit your GP. Feeling ill may be a sign that the knee bursa is infected.

What causes Knee Bursitis?

There are a wide range of potential causes and risk factors for knee bursitis; these range from overuse and sports injuries through to infection.  The most common causes are sustained pressure on the knee, overuse, a knock to the knee, and complications from osteoarthritis.

People run a higher risk of developing knee bursitis if they regularly kneel on hard surfaces for prolonged periods. This is often seen in plumbers, carpenters, and cleaners.  Runners also have a higher risk, due to repetitive movement of the knees.

Obese people and those suffering with osteoarthritis also have an increased risk of bursitis. This is due to excess load on the knee and associated weakness of the muscles supporting the knee.

How to treat knee bursitis

Prevention is the best approach, so we recommend reducing your risk of developing bursitis by taking steps to protect your knee. Take regular breaks, avoid excessive and repetitive bending, wear knee guards for work and sport where appropriate, and maintain a healthy body weight.

Most people will not need to see a specialist knee doctor, and bursitis will resolve with the following methods:

  • Rest: take a break and avoid activities that may further aggravate the affected knee.
  • Elevate the knee: keep the knee elevated to help reduce swelling.
  • Compression: a bandage or stocking around the knee can help reduce swelling, and icing can help relieve pain.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs: many over-the-counter medications can reduce the inflammation. With ongoing symptoms, your GP may prescribe an alternative medication.

Often inflammation around the knee can be treated without surgery.  If you are experiencing ongoing pain, swelling, stiffness and difficulty walking, seek review with your GP.  If required, you can ask your GP for a referral to Dr Jason Ward’s office.


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